Photo credit: Kevin Davis
It’s gotta be realistic, relevant, rigorous with sufficient repetitions to make a difference. Training that is. I’ve been around for too long to be content with firearms training which just goes through the motions or is based strictly on passing state or agency qualification courses. Such programs can be correctly described as activities but certainly not training which in any way prepares your officers for what it’s like on the two-way range, you know, with a suspect possibly firing back…
The trouble with these four F’s of firearms training is that within time and ammunition budgets, they may be not easily attained. In these “lean times” of budget constraints few administrators overseeing the purse strings say, “Buy all the ammo you want and take all the time in training you need.” Of course, there always seems to be money available for nonsensical techno gadget which never works like the salesman said or soon gathers dust from lack of use. Funny that firearms and law enforcement training would ever be considered a “luxury we can’t afford” but I digress.
Years ago while the lead instructor for my agency SWAT team I had an epiphany. No, no angels singing or orchestral music in the background, just the realization that I didn’t have to come up with all these high-speed, low-drag tactics and training for our guys. All I had to do was hammer home the basics. Our operators needed to be able to apply the basics with speed and aggression in the worst possible situations. That meant that their firearms skills and tactics had to be practiced to a high degree. That meant practice, practice, practice – less talking about how to do it and more repetitions of doing it. After a scenario if there was a question I would just respond, “Don’t talk about how you should have done it, do it again and show me.” Practice was intense with minimal downtime. Firearms practice was the same way with the team divided into sub-teams or two man op-cells (operation cells) and everything was a competition to provide pressure. You lose, you run or do push-ups (in reality everyone ran and did push-ups because they had integrity and team ownership).
With firearms training that meant team vs. team competitions. Coming up with competitions and courses was a creative process and I wish we had metal and paper targets from Challenge Targets and Targets Online at that time. Overall training and competitions would have been easier to set up and even more challenging.
Brad and Steve
I met Steve Staskiewicz and Brad Bune from Targets Online and Challenge Targets at the ILEETA – International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association Conference Exposition a couple of years ago in Wheeling, Illinois (another reason to go to the conference by the way, which is the top LE training seminar bar none). Steve had his excellent line of paper targets on display. What makes Targets Online targets unique is their use of heavier weight card stock. If you’ve ever worked on the range as a firearms instructor or spent much time as a shooter with a stapler trying to keep your paper target up in the wind and rain, you will appreciate Targets Online products. With a large variety of paper targets including some great shape targets as well as armed and unarmed photo realistic targets, Targets Online is my current go to vendor for paper targets. The combo of their targets and spray adhesive means no more target loss during high winds or wilting in the rain.
During a recent law enforcement carbine instructor course I was able to give my students sufficient repetitions while at the same time using many different targets throughout the course. We used everything from our state’s qual target to various shapes with numbers, the SEB bottle target, Transtar, the NLETC Rifle target, Patrol Rifle Distance Drills, and a variety of armed threat targets. The large variety of targets means you can increase difficulty as well as keeping things visually interesting.
Brad Bune was just starting out with his Challenge Targets (CT) company when we first met. What was unusual was that some of Brad’s steel target designs included a pendulum base which reset the target after hitting. Brad even developed a challenging target (now you know where the name comes from…) which allows the instructor to move the bad guy and/or a hostage target back and forth. This type of system increases difficulty and makes one of the four R’s – realism possible on the range. Think about it, without a very expensive moving target system you can move the target in and out of a possible shooting angle requiring the shooter to move and find a good shot. Revolutionary, a target and an officer both moving during an event rather than standing in one spot and not moving.
This summer I had the opportunity to train armed school personnel while using a line of Challenge Target’s TDI plates. From 30 feet outward we used these excellent metal targets which are rated up to rifle fire. Shooting on steel reduces downtime associated with stopping a line and stapling up new paper, they also give the shooter and instructor immediate and satisfying feedback. Stay on the sights as you smoothly press the trigger and don’t lift your head off the gun to see your hit and voila! you hit. This is very reassuring to shooters because they once again get to see and hear the results of the proper application of the basics versus having no idea how they are doing until later when the target is inspected. A simple can of spray paint can last a whole day for a line of shooters to cover previous hits on steel.
Recently I was doing a carbine evaluation and was struggling with a new back-up iron sight design. Heading to my local range I carried the Challenge Target TDI steel target, the company’s Pivot Base which can be set to allow the target to fall after hitting, as well as Brad’s new Target Holder Accessory. The Target Holder slides into the CT Base allowing two furring strip uprights to be affixed. I could then staple a piece of cardboard and the carbine zero targets I was using. After sighting in at 25 yards for a 100 yard zero, I pulled the Target Holder out and dropped the TDI steel silhouette in the base. Next up was the satisfying clanging of steel from 100 yards out.
The four R’s are the ABC’s of police firearms training. We need the time and the rounds downrange to properly prepare our troops, not engage in worthless activities like qual courses (which are nothing more than displays of minimum performance standards) as our only training.
Having the right targets makes a huge difference. The card stock paper targets from Targets Online and the metal ones from Challenge Targets advances the craft and our students to meet and defeat real world threats against them and that my friends is the ultimate goal.